The Greatest American Cars

A leading authority picks the top ten. Some of the names still have the power to stir the blood. And some will surprise you.

Few enterprises for any alleged expert in a given field can be more hazardous than the compilation of a “best” or “worst” list. The undertaking of such an effort immediately invites second-guessing by everyone else with similar credentials and offers the risk that any number of them may give valid, even insurmountable, proof that their selections are superior.Read more »

Working For The Union

At a time of crisis for American labor, an organizer looks back on the turbulent fifty-year career that brought him from the shop floor to the presidency of the United Automobile Workers.

Douglas A. Fraser is unusual among American union leaders of this generation. He started out as a worker, not as a professional union man, during that fervid time of union organization, the Great Depression, and witnessed the founding of his own union. When Fraser retired from the presidency of the United Automobile Workers in 1983, it marked the end of an epoch in the UAW and in American trade unionism. Almost alone among modern union leaders, Fraser knew firsthand what working was like before the union and what it was like after. Read more »

At Home On The Highway

A hankering for house cars—and trailers and motor homes—has diverted Americans for more than seventy years

“See America First.” After the First World War broke out in Europe, this slogan, coined by an organization of Western businessmen and civic leaders, beckoned thousands of Americans to see the West. While German submarines endangered transatlantic ships, tourists began responding enthusiastically to articles promoting the Rockies, the deserts, and above all San Francisco’s Panama-Pacific International Exposition, which drew thirteen million visitors in 1915.Read more »

“shut The Goddam Plant!”

The great sit-down strike that transformed American industry

At General Motors’ Flint, Michigan, Fisher Body Number One, the largest auto-body factory in the world, it was early evening of a chill winter day. Suddenly a bright red light began flashing in the window of the United Automobile Workers union hall across the street from the plant’s main gate. It was the signal for an emergency union meeting. Read more »

“Ocean To Ocean In An Automobile Car”

The first transcontinental auto trip began with a casual wager and ended sixty-five bone-jarring days later

It is an opening scene cherished by Jules Verne devotees: October 2, 1872, London’s exclusive Reform Club, the daily whist game in the reading room, then the famous wager—around the world within eighty days for a stake of twenty thousand pounds sterling. Read more »

Sorry No Gas

How Americans Met the First Great Gasoline Crisis—Nearly Forty Years Ago

According to the members of the blueribbon committee, the situation was desperate. Their report, released to the Washington press corps, had been blunt, unsparing, and apocalyptic. “We find the existing situation to be so dangerous,” it warned, “that unless corrective measures are taken immediately this country will face both a military and civilian collapse.” The committee proposed to counter the dire threat by the imposition of nationwide gasoline rationing. Read more »

Cartercar

“Simplicity and Silence will characterize the 1912 Cartercar” began the copy in the company’s advertising brochure of that year. But however simple and quiet the machine may have been in operation, no automobile of the era enjoyed a more complicated and elaborate promotional campaign.Read more »

Route 66: Ghost Road Of Okies

People who have been turned out of their homes make keen historians. Forced from the land of their ancestors and onto the open road without a destination, they have a way of remembering—often to the minute of the day—the trauma of departure.Read more »

The Way I See It

Back in the early years of the present century the advertising industry cooked up an art form that had a quaint and brief life.

Which is to say that the industry used to get out pamphlets using fictional situations to draw attention to the merits of the product that was being advertised. These were aimed straight at the ten-year-old mind, and inasmuch as I was just ten when I first met them I became a devoted reader. Read more »

Horsepower Comes To The Magpies

One of the most exciting stories in American history is that of how the Indian got the horse and what this astonishing innovation did to change the culture of the red men of the Plains [see “How the Indian Got the Horse,” AMERICAN HERITAGE , February, 1964]. Indian horses were, of course, of Spanish descent, the first of them almost certainly stolen by members of the Pueblo tribe whom the conquistadors had enslaved.Read more »